So you’ve decided to launch a brand-spankin’ new WordPress website? Good call. As I not-so-subtly eluded to in the previous section of this series, WordPress is the bees knees!
Now that you’ve squared your focus on the world’s best content management system to power your website, the next major question you will face, is choosing where to park your new ride (your new ride being your WordPress website, and um, your carpark being the metaphor for your website hosting provider. Ok, got it? Good.)
About the author
I started my first WordPress blog in 1999, a website named tshirtalert.com (which evolved to become a leading international authority within the tshirt industry for almost a decade). To put the value of a well-established WordPress website into perspective, I ended up selling Tshirt Alert several years later on Flippa.com, and used the money to renovate my home!
Tshirt Alert was hosted on the best budget hosting option available during that era, Hostgator.com, and I paid $9.95 each month for a Baby Croc account allowing me access to a basic shared web server situated in a secure warehouse somewhere in mainland U.S.A.
Today, almost 20 years later, whilst Tshirt Alert is long gone, I still pay $9.95 each month for the exact same Baby Croc account with Hostgator. Their server technology has no doubt evolved during in this time, but my monthly fee has not, so hats off to you Hostgator for providing the same consistent level of service for more than two decades.
Whilst Hostgator has proven to be ample for simple blogs and website, many competitors have entered the market since this time, each with their own unique set of benefits.
Criteria for comparing webhosts
Like any major service-driven industry, be it your car insurance provider, your mobile phone network of choice, or even your MFI (major financial institution), the range of options available for you to host your WordPress site spans across a vast range of price brackets and levels of quality.
From the Rolls Royces of web hosting, whom offer too many bells & whistles for you to ever possibly use, to the rusty old bombs who guarantee to get you from A to B only to conk out at the most inopportune time, there’s a web host that claims to suit every need and budget. Whether they deliver on their promises is another thing however, and that’s why I have taken it upon my own to offer you this heavily researched perspective on the best web hosts available globally in 2017 to host your WordPress website.
Within this analysis I have a developed a key criteria to compare each webhost which includes:
- Price – It may seem like one of the easiest things to compare, but when it comes to hosting, pricing is often not an apples for apples comparison. Some hosts only offer fixed term contracts (yet still promote their price as monthly, other hosts offer the option for a no-contract rolling monthly option, but then choose to promote their fixed term monthly fees (e.g. the fee for a 3 year upfront payment divided by 36 months). It’s a trap for young players, so what I have done is normalised the pricing for each to a consistent 12-month term as a monthly fee.
- One-Click WordPress Install – It’s pretty self explanatory really. Just like Amazon offer one-click purchasing (sweet!) whereas other not-so-swift ecommerce stores can take 10+ clicks to make a purchase, some webhosts offer quicker methods of WordPress installation than others. I know what I’d prefer!
- Number of Websites – You may only want to install one WordPress site on your host. That’s perfectly fine. But some of you may want the option to house many sites on your webhost without having to upgrade or increase payments, so I’ve included this as part of my assessment criteria.
- Number of Email Addresses – Emailing your customers and fans is probably something you will want to do at some stage. Depending on the size and scope of your blog, you may even want to use differing email addresses to represent different components of your business. Some hosts offer this, some don’t.
- Free Domains – It’s no big deal in the wider scheme of things, but some web hosts offer the sweetener of a domain name to get you through the door…so we’ve included mentions of these in our web host assessment.
- Inclusions – Expect everything except a free set of steak knives to be offered by web hosts to secure your business. We’ll explain the inclusions that are valuable, and decipher the bits that aren’t so meaningful.
- Uptime – Sounds like something that Michael Jordan was famous for, doesn’t it. Uptime is vital to ensure your website is…well…up, for as much time as possible.
- Backups – Backup, backup, tell me what you’re gunna do now. If you want to keep rollin’, automated backups are your best friend. Even if you get hacked, an automated backup allows you to restore your website with relative ease. It’s happened to me before, and I can tell you, you NEED an automated backup plan.
- Customer Support – It comes in many forms; web-chat, email, social media messaging, online forms, phone numbers. Whatever your desired method of communication, the promptness of the reply and level of service you receive goes a long way in keeping your business humming along.
- Longevity – Believe it or not, fly by the night companies still exist. Thankfully in the world of transparency and online reviews, they are more obvious than ever before but it still pays to understand the outlook for the longevity of the web host you choose.
- Reputation – The old adage that ‘your reputation supersedes you’ is even more relevant in the digital age. Being digital-only businesses, the reputation of web host companies is syndicated almost everywhere on the web; on online forums, review websites, blogs and major online news outlets.
- Scalability – When you are starting out, let’s face it….your numbers will be small. But in 12 months time when your traffic is reaching unprecedented levels and you want to add another five blogs to your network, will your web hosting be up to the job?
- Best Suited To…. – Not everything suits everyone. Some web hosts work best for standard WordPress blogs, others are better suited to WordPress eCommerce setups, and some web hosts are a jack of all trades but master of none. In my reviews I’ll let you know which WordPress application each host is best suited to.
At the end of this article there is a table which summarises each of the short-listed web hosting providers against this criteria, with a clear winner identified (go on, if you’re really impatient, scroll down now and risk missing out on all my ridiculously hilarious jokes). *Please note, I strongly encourage you to assess the merits and downfalls of each provider against your own budgets and website goals as my criteria may not necessarily apply to your unique website needs.
Why is important to choose the right host?
While most website owners appreciate the value of having a beautiful website design and creating awesome content, for some peculiar reason the importance of selecting the right webhost often takes a back seat. The harsh reality is that a fickle web host can cause your beautiful website and content to come crashing down within seconds, scarily sometimes never to be seen again.
Here are some bad things that can happen when you don’t choose the best hosting provider for your needs:
- Loss of revenue – To put it simply, if your site goes down, your potential customers will not be able to view your amazing content. This means visitors won’t be able to read the blog posts you’ve poured hours of time into, and will not be able to learn about your products and services. To put this into perspective, on August 19th in 2013, Amazon went down for 30 minutes. Based on Amazon’s recent sales data, this outage theoretically cost Amazon $66,240 per minute – or nearly $2 million. Outages can be costly to any business, big or small.
- Negative effects on Search Engine Rankings – The art of maximising the visibility of your website in Google is often known as Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO for short). SEO is vitally important to ensure that your customers can easily find you. Besides publishing valuable content on your website, SEO relies on factors such as website accessibility, reliability, speed and uptime. If your site is down repeatedly when search engines are attempting to visit, then your ranking will be adversely affected. Slow websites will also hurt your rankings.
- Security – There’s no golden egg for maintaining the security of your website. Despite the robust and secure nature of WordPress, hackers frequently discover and exploit vulnerabilities in WordPress websites. A reputable web hosting company will often provide backup services (to automate the backup your data to a remote server or email address) and make it easy to restore in case your site is hacked.
- Loss of fans & visitors – In my experience, the repeat visitors to your website are your VIPs. They are far more likely to recommend your site to their friends, and if you are selling good online are statistically proven to be twice as likely to making a purchase versus a new visitor to your website. If your website goes down frequently, your repeat visitors will quickly dwindle, costing your valuable word-of-mouth endorsement and potentially revenue too.
- Lack of support – You always want to partner with someone who’s got your back, right? A good host will provide consistent and responsive support, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. If you are unable to access this level of support, you may be left high and dry at the most inopportune of times (and believe me, website catastrophes never occur at convenient times).
Shortlist: Hostgator vs Dreamhost vs Siteground vs WP Engine vs Bluehost vs A2 Hosting (2017 Edition)
Each of the below hosting companies has been short-listed due to their status as self-proclaimed specialists in WordPress. While there are other companies who also claim loyalty to WordPress, these are also the most popular and/or have come recommended by respected peers and users within the industry.
I have used Hostgator since 1999 and have had very few issues and a consistent level of service. I also notice that Freelancer.com (another favoured service provider of mine) always supports the use of Hostgator in their email newsletters.
Read my review of Hostgator
A close friend of mine, also a thought leader for a reputable Search Agency, has mentioned to me a couple of times that Dreamhost are a cheap and reliable hosting provider. Since good advice doesn’t come often, I took this advice onboard and took Dreamhost for a test run.
Read my review of Dreamhost
One of only four webhosts in the world recommended by WordPress.org, known for being very responsive and their support team having in-depth knowledge of WordPress. Slightly skewed towards developers.
Read my review of Siteground
As the name suggests, WP (i.e. WordPress) Engine is wholly and solely dedicated to WordPress hosting. This provider offers a ‘fully managed’ WordPress hosting service, rather than just providing a home that you need to maintain yourself for your WordPress website.
Read my review of WP Engine
Pat Flynn, the brains trust behind Smart Passive Income uses endorses this hosting. Since everything Pat touches turns to gold, it must be pretty decent.
Read my review of Bluehost
One of the newer kids on the block, learning from the victories and mistakes of the market leaders, is A2 Hosting. A2 Hosting is an all-round hosting solution who also has a dedicated WordPress plan and handy options for simple, 1-click WordPress installations.
Read my review of A2 Hosting
Hostgator – WordPress Web Hosting Review
Hostgator is possibly the biggest webhost in the world, hosting over 9 Million domains. That’s a mind-boggling amount of websites.
I’ve had a long-term relationship with Hostgator – I signed up to a Baby Croc account with them almost 10 years ago, in August 2007. While I do recommend Hostgator for some purposes, I do the service they offer is overshadowed by their competitors in a couple of key areas.
Hostgator is best known for offering good web hosting with unlimited features for very affordable prices. I still use them for small personal projects as they are hard to beat on price. While their support is generally quite adept in arriving at the desired solution, sometimes their response takes significantly longer than it should (particularly on web chat). But hey, you get what you pay for, right? On the topic of payments, if you want to commit to 3 years of them, Hostgator fees come down to $5.95 per month which is as cheap as it gets for hosting.
Recommended Hostgator Plan for WordPress Sites
$9.25/month in 12 month contract
- Free Adwords Credit of $100 for new members
- Unlimited storage, emails and websites
- One click to install WordPress (via Cpanel)
- Free site migrations from existing hosts (Cpanel only)
- Customer support lag
- Backups are manual; true automatic backups cost an additional $15.95 per year
- Accounts with more than 100,000 inodes are automatically removed from their backup system
Would I recommend Hostgator?
Although Hostgator is very well-known hosting company worldwide, they are not necessarily known for the right reasons. Their customer support is lacklustre and often takes a long time to connect, and while they offer a huge swag of add-ons, few of them add any value and they way they are pitched to their already-paying customers feels a little bit too ‘salesy’ for my liking.
Hostgator are an average host with better options available for your money.
Dreamhost – WordPress Web Hosting Review
I felt compelled to offer Dreamhost my full consideration after a recommendation of their services came from a close friend. After visiting the Dreamhost website, the first thing I noticed was their self-proclaimed award-winning web hosting service, notably for WordPress hosting.
Like most major hosts (and Dreamhost is major, it has over 1.5 Million active accounts) Dreamhost offers managed and shared hosting accounts. Shared hosting accounts offer the best bang for buck for WordPress site, so I’ve selected the ‘Shared Monthly’ plan as the most appropriate for entry to intermediate level WordPress usage. This plan offers plenty within its $9.95 monthly price tag including an unlimited number of websites allowed, unlimited data storage and transfers and unlimited email addresses. One thing that really sets Dreamhost apart from most is the inclusion of a free domain name (approximate value $20) which is a thoughtful inclusion.
Dreamhost claims to offer one-click installation of WordPress, however red flags immediately were raised when I investigated this further. Instead of using what I consider to be the ‘best practice’ software for managing your hosting admin, Cpanel, Dreamhost has developed their own admin panel. Not only does this limit functionality, it also means that if you are want to transfer your websites from another Cpanel based host (such as Hostgator or A2 Hosting), you will have to do it manually. For this reason, Dreamhost don’t offer a free site migration service like most others do.
In terms of pricing, Dreamhost come in at the standard you would expect for a shared hosting plan of this calibre. That said, you can save a couple of dollars if you choose to sign up for 3 years, with the pricing dropping from the standard $9.95 to $7.95 a month for a 36 month commitment.
Recommended Dreamhost Plan for WordPress Sites
$9.95/month in 12 month contract
- Unlimited disk storage, websites, email and monthly data transfers
- One .com, .net., .org or .info domain for free (licensed for 12 months)
- Free SSL certificate
- One-click WordPress installation and backups
- No Cpanel
- No chat support for pre-sales questions
- Long wait time for chat support
Would I recommend Dreamhost?
No Cpanel? No deal.
Dreamhost have broken away from the standard hosting software, and quite frankly, that isn’t ideal. Not only does it mean learning a new system if you already know Cpanel, but it also means that if you employ a freelancer they will have to go through the same learning process. Plus it limits your ability to easily migrate to another host down the track, since Cpanel to Cpanel is the simplest way to migrate.
Coupled with fairly average wait times for support, I deem Dreamhost to be an average host with better options available for your money.
Siteground – WordPress Web Hosting Review
If WordPress website performance is what you yearn for, Siteground could be the answer you are looking for. Siteground focuses slightly more on technical features and is therefore more appropriate for those who fancy themselves as WordPress developers as opposed to average, everyday punters.
Siteground is smaller than the likes of Hostgator and Dreamhost, with nearly 450k domains hosted worldwide, however it has been in operation for over 10 yeards and has therefore had some time to establish itself as well known entity within the WordPress community.
The plan I think suits most WordPress users who are starting out or growing their network of WordPress websites is the Growbig plan, which utilises a shared server. It can host multiple sites and has tools to make your WordPress website run faster. It includes Supecacher which means that your website speeds will be running faster than most other hosts within this review series, not to mention that the uptime is as close to 100% as humanly possible, average 99.99%, however there is one drawback. Unfortunately Siteground’s Growbig plan is also capped at 20GB of data storage and will accommodate just 25,000 visitors per month. That’s enough to get you by for a while, but once you grow bigger you’ll need to upgrade your plan, which of course comes at a fee.
There is one other aspect of Siteground that doesn’t float my boat: like most of the hosts I have reviewed in this series, Siteground offer a one-click Wordpess install. The thing is, Siteground installs a customised version of WordPress that automatically includes a published page. While this may sound trivial, I find it somewhat devious, as it can benefit the Siteground business if the user accidently leaves this page live (for SEO reasons).
Recommended Siteground Plan for your first WordPress Site
$7.45/month in 12 month contract
- Unlimited websites, email addresses
- Free daily backups
- Free SSL certificate
- One-click WordPress installation
- Super-cacher for increased speed
- You can choose the data centre (Singapore, Amsterdam, London, Chicago)
- Capped storage (20GB)
- Traffic capped at roughly 25,000 visits
- Capped daily CPU allowance
- No rolling monthly contract option
- Automatic Siteground promo page added to WordPress installation
Would I recommend Siteground?
No, because I don’t like constraints. The visitor cap of 25,000 a month makes it a good fit if you run a single, modest WordPress website or several websites that get a small amount of traffic.
WP Engine – WordPress Web Hosting Review
WP Engine differs from most of the other hosting providers I have reviewed, in that it provides a fully Managed WordPress Hosting service. What this means is that rather than just providing a “home” for your WordPress website, they customise your WordPress install so that it is fast, secure, and optimised. They are pioneers in Managed WordPress hosting, so they are experienced and well respected. It goes to show, with some of their more prominent clients including Yelp, Asana, New Relic and SoundCloud using WPEngine for their WordPress hosting.
Being a managed hosting solution, WP Engine is an ideal choice if you’re looking for a hassle-free WordPress host for your site. If technical details aren’t really your thing and you are seeking a WordPress host that simply just works, WPEngine could be for you.
WPEngine offer several grades of hosting, the one I am recommending for those starting out is the Personal plan. It is priced at $29 per month for a rolling monthly contract; as an incentive to pay upfront you can get an additional 2 months free if you pay for 12 months in advance.
WPEngine offers advanced security features, and automatic WordPress upgrades. This means the potential for your WordPress website to be compromised is minimal, as WPEngine have tight security and the latest patches to keep your WordPress website as secure as possible. In fact, if you get hacked, they will fix it for you free of charge. For peace of mind, WPEngine also offer automatic backups every day.
It’s not all great news for WPEngine however. When it comes to value for money, WPEngine is the most expensive hosting option I have ever reviewed on BarefootPassiveIncome.com. While WPEngine offers increased levels of support, security and general assistance for your WordPress site, it has significant limitations versus its Shared Server competitors such as A2 Hosting and Hostagor.
For example, you are limited to just 1 website attracting up to 25,000 visits per month with the Personal ($29/mo) plan, in comparison to the unlimited quotas for websites, visits and storage with Hostgator, A2 Hosting and the other web hosts in my shortlist. Furthermore, WPEngine does not offer any email accounts for your domain, which means that you will need to factor in another service such as Google Apps for Business in order to facilitate this (which brings additional costs and labour to setup).
One other significant drawback with WPEngine, is the disallowed plugins list. WordPress plugins are little pieces of software (often free or low-cost) to enhance the functionality of your WordPress site. WPEngine does not allow the installation of some specific plugins due to potential conflicts with WPEngine’s infrastructure, which, put simply, could be a pain in the future if you are looking to enhance your website down the track (highly likely).
Recommended WP Engine Plan for your first WordPress Site
$29/month in 12 month contract
- Auto backups every day; One click restore
- Free SSL cert
- Very secure & automatic WordPress updates
- Managed solution (no technical work required on your part)
- No email provided
- Limitations on websites (1) and storage (10GB)
- Disallows some plugins
Would I recommend WP Engine?
With the premium cost is WP Engine worth the investment? Yes, if a managed WordPress service is what you decide that you really need. In other words, if you are a WordPress user who does not want to deal with the technical side of running your website, then WPEngine is the solution for you.
But man, is it is expensive. For almost one third of the price and just a smidge more effort (made simple by following my guide to setting up your first WordPress website) you could secure shared hosting with my recommended WordPress hosting provider A2 Hosting and save yourself a bucketload of pennies every year. If you looking to have the flexibility to run a number of websites then A2 Hosting is a far better option which will cost you just $9.95 per month.
Bluehost -Wordpress Web Hosting Review
Bluehost is so hot right now amongst the internet marketing community. Call me a cynic, but I do wonder if it’s because it’s a cheap and reliable host….or because it offers a good incentive program for affiliates to make a steady stream of income.
Don’t get me wrong, Bluehost is amongst some of the better web-hosts on this list, however there are a couple of aspects which I’ve noticed can be traps for young players, including:
- No free migration service included, which is offered by most other hosts in this price range.
- Does not offer monthly payment with no contract; 3 year contracts are their leadin prices which can lead to a false sense of value
- Support known to be relatively slow; however this is compensated by a comprehensive knowledge base with Youtube clips to supplement which is quite a unique and nifty option
Besides offering reliable hosting with uptime up there with the best of them, Bluehost offers plenty of goodies with their standard hosting packages. Bluehost customers automatically qualify for:
- $200 marketing credits included
- Automatic daily backups
- Unlimited storage, websites and emails.
Being used and recommend by none other than the world-famous blogger Pat Flynn, it’s hard to ignore Bluehost altogether. Read on for my final verdict for the best WordPress hosting company available this year.
Recommended Bluehost Plan for your first WordPress Site
$12.99/month in 12 month contract
- Unlimited websites, storage and email accounts
- $200 marketing credits included
- Automatic daily backups
- No Rolling Monthly contract option
- Support relatively slow
- No free migration service
Would I recommend Bluehost?
No. Not that it’s a bad option, there’s just better….it’s called A2 Hosting!
A2 Hosting – WordPress Web Hosting Review
Compared to some of the previously reviewed website hosting providers, A2 Hosting is the new kid on the block. Let me elaborate though; A2 Hosting is that really likeable new kid who just moved into the house down the street, the one who is a little bit cooler than most, and who has the freshest tech without being pretentious with a positive attitude to match.
Because A2 Hosting is newer to the scene, this web host has managed to capitalise on the gaps that many of the legacy hosting companies cannot. Sure, they offer all the stuff any good web host offers, like unlimited storage, websites and emails. Where they really shine however, is their ‘one click wordpress installation’ with optimised speed options. This Auto-Install feature is a real bonus and time-saver that, at the time of writing, other hosts simply do not offer. Another attractive set of features offered gratis by A2 Hosting, is free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates. Google loves secure sites more than ever this year, and rewards those webmasters who include SSL within their site.
A2 also offers free distribution across the Cloudflare CDN to improve website performance, as well as Hackscan software for additional security of your website or blog. A few other features that are worth noting are:
- Rolling monthly contracts, starting at $12.99/month
- Longer term contracts with great discounts (I recently signed up for another 2 years and received 51% off the bill)
- Automatic regular backups can be setup using a Cron job
- Free site migrations (uncapped) from another Cpanel based host.
- Multiple server locations on offer
- Exclusive WordPress features such as ‘A2 Optimised’ which loads pages 6X faster;
- Pre-sales web chat (most other hosts don’t offer this!)
Recommended A2 Hosting Plan for your first WordPress Site
$10.99/month in 12 month contract
- Unlimited storage, websites and emails.
- Simple and optimised WordPress installation during registration
- Free SSL
- Free security addons included (Hackscan)
- Fast – Multiple server locations offered & Cloudflare CDN
- Backups aren’t automated (cron job required)
Would I recommend A2 Hosting?
Yes. For sure.
For the full summary of hosting options for you blog on a neat and concise single screen, check out my website hosting comparison chart.